February 18, 2022
The telomerase ribonucleoprotein complex is the primary means by which yeast cells maintain telomeres. However, it turns out that cells lacking functional telomerase have a backup plan to restore telomere length by “alternative lengthening of telomeres” (ALT). ALT employs recombination via extrachromosomal telomere elements called C-circles. In a process for which the reasons remain unclear, C-circles get paired with eroded telomeres at the nuclear pore complex on the nuclear membrane. This pairing requires the SAGA/TREX2 complex and, once paired, the recombination between C-circles and telomeres appears to be effected by Rad59p, the paralog of Rad52p.
This interesting model is described in a recent paper in The EMBO Journal, in which Aguilera et al. adapt a method developed in human cancer studies to detect ALT and C-circles in yeast. In humans, ~10% of cancers depend on ALT for unchecked growth. In yeast, cells with ALT were able to be detected as survivors among telomerase mutant (est2∆) cells.
As other types of extrachromosomal DNA circles were previously reported to associate with the nuclear pore complex, the authors addressed the possibility that C-circles bind the NPC and demonstrated it clearly. They also showed the circles interact with the SAGA/TREX2 complex, which favors telomere recombination.
The novel finding that ALT in yeast so closely mirrors that of some human cancer cells is a boon to study of these cancers. The ability to develop ALT inhibitors in yeast would provide a new set of potential anticancer therapies, making this an ideal model system.
Categories: Research Spotlight